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Fact is, those old shadows weren't "soft." They were horrifyingly pixelated (1/16 the resolution on each axis, or 1/256 the total pixels,) and when OpenGL rendered them, it would sort of blur them a bit to make it look less horrifying. But in the process you lost loads of detail, and in places the pixels were still easily visible. This was one of the last pieces of graphics tech left untouched since the Quake II engine, and desperately needed an update. Now it's the same basic code, but at a higher resolution.
Ok, here is some more news with screenies that illustrate some of the effects and performance gains that we've achieved.
We've(COR) spent the last four months working on a ton of renderer changes for CRX. Skeletal animation is now done in the GPU, and this allowed for changes across the board in mesh rendering that gained more than a 300% performance increase. Bsp rendering is now also done vastly more efficiently with some clever batching using a single VBO, again, an increase of over 200%. Particles got similar treatment, and are vastly faster. Much of this was done to give greater performance gains for Alien Arena, but we also are keeping Alteria in mind as that "Franchise" is about to be reborn in a big way. These changes will allow for much higher poly models, maps, etc. Alien Arena won't likely receive much in that regard, it IS a deathmatch game after all, but some meshes might receive some "HD" versions with smoother polys, etc.
A number of new rendering features were added in the recent months as well:
This shows a few things with how our meshes now render. The first thing Subsurface Light Scattering and Rim Lighting. SLS is what happens when a light is behind a translucent object, like flesh. The light enters the object, and bounces around. This effect can be faked using GLSL shaders. In our example here, notice how the brain of the martian is "lit up" a bit, in comparison the his bony facial area. An article on this effect can be found here - http://machinesdontcare.wordpress.co...catter-shader/
The next thing in this picture is a bit hard to see, but we also added the ability to add cubemapping effects to our meshes, nothing groundbreaking, but it was a noticeable absence previously. The end of the weapon has parts on it that have been cubemapped. I used this effect on a number of items such as ammo boxes, monitor screens, and hard plastic surfaces on weapons. It's more impressive when seen in motion.
The last item in this example is the shadow. We now use shadowmaps to create our player shadows, and they are softened using a 4 sample Percentage Closer Filtering(PCF) method that is quite fast. I might change this, as Eihrul has a really nifty one I'm going to check out soon.
This example shows the soft shadowmapping as well as the light shafts(god rays) that the sun creates. The light shafts were in 7.60, but now the engine is fast enough that you can actually use them. More about the light shaft technique - http://fabiensanglard.net/lightScattering/ We are the only free game engine that I am aware of doing this.
This shows how cubemapping can be applied to map surfaces to create shiny effect useful for ceramic floor tile such as this, or on wet surfaces. This can be applied by setting a surface flag when building a map, or via shader. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but it was something missing from the arsenal in the past.
Here I redid the water shader. It's using a similar shader, but I fixed some problems with it, and made some other minor changes, so it looks and works much better now. I might have a few more tricks for that. We removed "true" reflections out some time ago, but they can be faked like UE does. This was done for obvious performance reasons.
We have a few more tricks we are working before we release this thing at the end of November.